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Former Midway Ford employees claim sexual harassment, discrimination


imagesTwo former employees of Midway Ford have sued the Roseville company for sexual harassment and discrimination, alleging that they endured an atmosphere more akin to a college frat house than a workplace.

Renee Woitas, 58, a fleet sales worker, and Angeline Rodrique, 28, a sales consultant, said they were forced out after years of lewd comments, unwanted touching and sabotaged sales, according to the suit filed Friday, April 13, in Ramsey County District Court.

The perpetrators of the unwanted conduct allegedly included the CEO, the general manager, the used-car manager, the commercial vehicle sales manager, the new-car manager, the parts manager, the lease coordinator and others.

“Midway Ford has denied the allegations and intends to vigorously defend the case because it believes the allegations are improper and inappropriate,” said Marshall Tanick, attorney for Midway Ford.

He called the company a “good, welcoming place to work (that) has many satisfied employees, both men and women, and values its employees and its customers.”

The two female plaintiffs paint a different picture.

“During their employment with defendant Midway Ford, plaintiffs were subjected to a sexually harassing, hostile, discriminatory and otherwise inappropriate work environment,” the lawsuit says.

Among the allegations:

– General manager John Tichenor and commercial vehicle sales manager Ed Micek “pulled down (their) pants and underwear in front of plaintiff Woitas.”

Parts and service director Greg Spitt grabbed Rodrique’s buttocks.

– New-car manager Tom Kulick “repeatedly made animal noises when women walked by” and “made a comment about what ‘favors’ plaintiff Rodrique does for a male employee.”

– CEO Edward Tichenor “repeatedly hugged and kissed plaintiff Rodrique.”

– Finance manager Greg Graves asked Rodrique how much money she made as a stripper. Rodrique had never been a stripper.

– The company’s female human resources manager and receptionist “repeatedly responded to plaintiffs’ complaints by saying, ‘We don’t want to hear about it.’ “

– John Tichenor told Woitas, “Thank God you and (CEO) Ed (Tichenor) are friends or we would lose a lawsuit.”

– Sexually offensive comments were added by John Tichenor to employee pay stubs.

“It sounds like every day was like a sexual hazing,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney Lori Peterson. “Work is tough enough for anybody, but to have to be sexually hazed every day when you walk through the door is just outrageous. Nobody gets paid enough for that.”

The women also alleged that their sales were sabotaged; that Rodrique’s trades were underbid or refused, costing her income; that Woitas’ company vehicle was dirty, had faulty brakes and was generally less desirable than vehicles of male employees; and that Woitas was told she made at least one-third less than her male counterparts.

Woitas worked at Midway Ford from March 2009 to February 2012. Rodrique worked there from April 2010 to March 2012.

Founded by Harold and Marie Slawik, who also opened Har Mar Mall, Midway Ford was originally at Fairview and University avenues in St. Paul. It moved to 2777 N. Snelling Ave. in Roseville in 1977, and has been owned and operated exclusively by the Tichenor family since 1989, according to a history on the company’s website.

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